Chongwe River Camp

Reviews of Chongwe River Camp

Excellent(95%) From 71 travellers
Excellent
56
Good
12
Average
3
Poor
0
Terrible
0
Below are independent comments from 71 of our travellers who have visited Chongwe River Camp, and have kindly agreed to share their thoughts.

They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Mr & Mrs S from Cambridge
Arrived on: 17-Oct-2010 Stayed for: 4 nights
Overall:
Good
Good
Location:
Excellent
Excellent
Rooms:
Excellent
Excellent
Service:
Excellent
Excellent
Food:
Good
Good
Activities:
Average
Average
Facilities:
Good
Good

Chongwe River Camp review

Beautiful setting, comfortable camp. However we were a little disappointed with some of the activities. The guides were good, but on each of our excursions (except two within the park when a park guard came with us) we were accompanied by only by the guide and we did not have a guard as well, as we had had at the previous camp. This made a difference to the amount of wildlife spotted - impossible for the guide to be concentrating on the driving as well as the spotting.

More importantly, I also felt that the camp was a bit slack about safety. On one evening float trip on the Zambezi, our sundowners on an island in the middle of the river were followed by engine failure. The radio did not work so there was no way of summoning help. The boat was equipped with but a single paddle, not enough to propel a boat of that weight. As darkness fell, our guide heroically jumped into the thigh deep water and waded for 10 minutes towards the Zambian bank, pulling the boat behind him. Then in the darkness he shouted for help in the hope that someone might hear. Luckily they did and a relief boat was sent from the sister lodge. fortunately the other 2 guests and I were pretty unflappable. But I was VERY unhappy that the guide should have felt obliged to put himself at risk by jumping into water which we knew to be crocodile infested.

When we related this story to the camp manager, she was quite unconcerned. I think the management did not take it as an opportunity to assess the risks and act on risk managment e.g. simple measures like having an adequate number of paddles and punt poles in each boat. Is engine failure a rare occurrence? Not in our experience - it happened again the next day. The camp manager told us a story of some French guests getting very upset last year when their vehicle broke down on a night drive in the park, again I felt her point was that they were unreasonably bothered by this.

On this type of holiday, one should expect the unexpected to happen. What I would also expect is an appropriate response from management to minimise the rsik of recurrence. This and a few other very minor events made us think that at this camp the emphasis was on style rather than substance.

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Expert Africa comments

We sent these comments to Chongwe’s owner, Chris Liebenberg, who was very sorry that these travellers felt uncomfortable about aspects of their trip to Chongwe. Chris ordered a full investigation, receiving reports from both the guide and the other couple on the same excursion. He comments:

“I’m really sorry if these travellers felt at risk, as I don’t think they ever were. Let me comment at these issues separately:

1. The evening boat trip
Two couples took this afternoon boat trip on the Zambezi River. They stopped on a sand bank for sundowners but when they were ready to leave Victor, the guide, couldn’t start the engine. It was getting dark, so Victor radioed the closest camp, Kasaka (which is also Chongwe’s sister camp) for assistance. Once that was organised, he also radioed Chongwe to tell the manager that assistance was being organised by Kasaka. At one stage, still trying to resurrect the motor, Victor pushed the boat away from the sandy island and into the current, where the water was deep enough to lower the motor into. It still wouldn’t start! Thus he paddled back to the sandy island, and jumped out into the shallow water to hold the boat from drifting. Victor is a fully-qualified guide; he knows this river very well. He’s told me clearly that at no stage did he put himself, or these travellers, in any danger.

Because Kasaka were not expecting to need a boat that afternoon, it took time for them to get one ready and launched. Whilst waiting, Victor spotted some of Kasaka’s staff fishing from the bank, and he asked them for an update on progress; the ‘rescue’ boat from Kasaka arrived shortly afterwards.

2. An unconcerned camp manager
Florence the camp manager would have appeared unconcerned as there wasn’t ever anyone in real danger. She was unaware that these travellers felt unhappy about the excursion. I’m really sorry that she didn’t realise this, as if she had then I’m sure she would have done her best to put their minds at rest. Florence would never have made light of a serious situation; she and the rest of my team at Chongwe River Camp take safety very seriously indeed, as our 16 year long track record will attest.

3. A second engine failure?
The following day, another guide (Richman) took these same travellers out on another boat trip, and reported no motor boat breakdown. Outboard engines do sometimes take a while to start – and we can completely understand why travellers might think that one was ‘broken’. However, as usual, it did start eventually. No rescue or recovery was needed; Richman returned safely to camp with his travellers in the boat with the engine running.

I deeply regret any discomfort caused to these travellers – and as the result of their comments I’ve talked with our team to encourage them to explain to our travellers more about what’s happening, so that they understand more.

However, we are confident that our guide’s safety procedures are both up to scratch, and are being followed. The safety of our travellers, and our team, has always been - and always will be - Chongwe’s top priority; I’m sorry if our lack of explanations to these travellers didn’t get these across to them.”

Mr & Mrs W from Surrey
Arrived on: 18-Sep-2010 Stayed for: 3 nights
Overall:
Excellent
Excellent
Location:
Excellent
Excellent
Rooms:
Good
Good
Service:
Excellent
Excellent
Food:
Excellent
Excellent
Activities:
Excellent
Excellent
Facilities:
Good
Good

Chongwe River Camp review

Lovely location.

Game not as easy to see as at Luangwa but enjoyed river activities

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Mr H from Bristol
Arrived on: 8-Sep-2010 Stayed for: 3 nights
Overall:
Excellent
Excellent
Location:
Excellent
Excellent
Rooms:
Excellent
Excellent
Service:
Excellent
Excellent
Food:
Good
Good
Activities:
Good
Good
Facilities:
Good
Good

Chongwe River Camp review

Fantastic location - we enjoyed the variety of boat & drives and the different terrain from South Luangwa.

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Mr & Mrs B from Buckinghamshire
Arrived on: 4-Aug-2010 Stayed for: 3 nights
Overall:
Good
Good
Location:
Excellent
Excellent
Rooms:
Excellent
Excellent
Service:
Excellent
Excellent
Food:
Good
Good
Activities:
Good
Good
Facilities:
Good
Good

A camp of two halves

There is no doubt that the accommodation we had in the Cassia suite was superb, way beyond luxury though given the price we thought that we might have been given more choice for example on the food. There was no choice of menu. This is not to say that what we had was poor, the opposite in fact, it was excellent but we had what we were given.

Whilst the inital welcome was warm it was not very informative for example about what choices we had on activities other than we knew we could not have a dedicated vehicle which we had not expected anyway.

Joseph our butler was such a lovely man who could not do enough to make our stay a happy one. Never having had a butler before we almost felt guilty in asking him to do things for us.

The view of the river was beautiful though when the Hippo start calling just after three in the morning you may wish for a room futher up the Chongwe river. In its brochure the camp prides itself on organising things round you not the needs of the camp. In fact we found the opposite. In part this was a factor of being in the self contained Cassia suite at the opposite end of the camp to the general dining area. This meant we did hear about what was going on. Communication, particularly about activities, was not good. The issues were raised with Florence (Flossie) and she did respond as best she could given the circumstances. This was meant to be the highlight of the holiday for us but apart from the accommodation, it fell short of the expectations.

We had some wonderful Lion sightings of three males but apart from this the volume of wildlife was low with several "very quiet" drives. The park itself is very varied and has some really beautiful habitat. Guest should be prepared though for a 20 min or so very bumpy ride up into the park as it is on the opposite side of the chongwe river to the camp.

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The D Family - Ontario, Canada
Arrived on: 9-Nov-2009 Stayed for: 3 nights
Overall:
Excellent
Excellent
Location:
Excellent
Excellent
Rooms:
Excellent
Excellent
Service:
Excellent
Excellent
Food:
Excellent
Excellent
Activities:
Excellent
Excellent
Facilities:
Excellent
Excellent

Chongwe River Camp was wonderful

This was an amazing place to stay. The staff and accomodations were excellent. It was in a very safari location to get the real Africa feeling.

We very much enjoyed this part of our trip.

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Mr and Mrs C - Edinburgh
Arrived on: 24-Oct-2009 Stayed for: 4 nights
Overall:
Excellent
Excellent
Location:
Excellent
Excellent
Rooms:
Excellent
Excellent
Service:
Excellent
Excellent
Food:
Excellent
Excellent
Activities:
Excellent
Excellent
Facilities:
Excellent
Excellent

Chongwe River Camp review

We absolutely loved our stay at Chongwe and cannot fault it in any way - all of the staff go out of they way to make sure that you have everything to make your stay enjoyable and you are made to feel so welcome that you really start to feel like part of the family.

All of the activities were excellent and the guides were very knowledgeable. There are also a good number of choices of activities from canoeing to fishing to walking safaris and game drives so you will never be bored. You are also very much in charge of your own itinerary and the staff will do all they can to make sure that you do whatever activity you fancy on a particular day.

I must also mention the food as this particularly good - the best we had on our 3 week holiday. I would recommend Chongwe without any hesitation.

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Mr & Mrs L from Bath
Arrived on: 18-Sep-2009 Stayed for: 6 nights
Overall:
Average
Average
Location:
Excellent
Excellent
Rooms:
Average
Average
Service:
Average
Average
Food:
Average
Average
Activities:
Excellent
Excellent
Facilities:
Average
Average

Chongwe River Camp review

Although the setting is wonderful, game is not found in great numbers and game drives can be frustrating. In fact you can see most game on offer by sitting outside your tent. Night times are exciting with large elephants, hippos and sometimes lions walking past your tent.

We found just sitting by water waiting for game to come to drink and watching birds more rewarding than driving for hours around the bush. Elephants were seen in numbers and of course are never boring.

There are many activities on offer but even so I would not recommend staying longer than three nights at this camp.

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Mr & Mrs S from Glasgow
Arrived on: 9-Sep-2009 Stayed for: 3 nights
Overall:
Excellent
Excellent
Location:
Excellent
Excellent
Rooms:
Excellent
Excellent
Service:
Good
Good
Food:
Average
Average
Activities:
Excellent
Excellent
Facilities:
Excellent
Excellent

Chongwe River Camp review

A wonderful second part of the holiday after spending time in South Luangwa.

Loved the opportunities to be out on the water and the camp was very flexible and seemed to manage to accomodate all the guests' requests for the different activies.

Really enjoyed the daytrip into the park and the tigerfish fishing!

We asked if we could have a table for two on our last night (since this was also the last night of our holiday) and they were more than happy to oblige and provided a lovely romantic dinner by the pool, complete with floating candles!

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Mr & Mrs T from Bedfordshire
Arrived on: 3-Sep-2009 Stayed for: 3 nights
Overall:
Excellent
Excellent
Location:
Excellent
Excellent
Rooms:
Excellent
Excellent
Service:
Excellent
Excellent
Food:
Average
Average
Activities:
Excellent
Excellent
Facilities:
Excellent
Excellent

Memorable experience at Chongwe River Camp

Chongwe River Camp is in a delightful location, absolutely fabulous area. We had some very memorable experiences in the camp with the Elephants that came through every afternoon and at night to eat the fruits that fall from the trees in camp, some fantastic photo opportunities. Our guide Patrick was also very knowledgeable, particularly with the birds and good at tracking lion. We had some lovely encounters with Lions in the early morning. Also the variety of birds were fabulous.
We saw far more animals around the camp than in the National Park and were disappointed in the game seen within the park boundaries.
Our accomodation and service received by Debbie, Cariline, Neil, and all the staff was really great. Unfortunately Chris went down with a tummy bug which lasted through to our next camp (Tena Tena). We can't be sure but suspect it must have been caused by something consumed at Chongwe as the Doctor seen by Chris at Tena Tena said it would have been caused by something she ingested. Note I only mark down the Food below because of this occurence.

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Mr & Mrs G from Buckinghamshire
Arrived on: 3-Sep-2009 Stayed for: 3 nights
Overall:
Good
Good
Location:
Excellent
Excellent
Rooms:
Excellent
Excellent
Service:
Excellent
Excellent
Food:
Excellent
Excellent
Activities:
Average
Average
Facilities:
Good
Good

lovely camp in beautiful setting.

the camp and surrounding area were superb. we had elephants in camp each day, so close you could almost touch them. great photo's taken from my bed!!

water excursions excellent. unfortunately the park where we spent most time on the drived was almost devoid of game for the whole of our visit.

patrick was am excellent guide and the camp staff were also great.

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